All Pokémon Graded, Part 13: Nos. 121 to 130 (Starmie to Gyarados)

Welcome back to All Pokémon Graded, the highly unscientific serial listicle for the discerning time-waster with impeccable taste. In this installment, an inordinate amount of non-evolvers, many of them problematic.
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250px-121starmie121. Starmie
Type: Water / Psychic
Best Name: Akusta (Korean)
To a far greater degree than with Staryu, I fear Starmie’s total lack of sentient indicators. I do not believe there is a single organic component in Starmie’s body. I would more readily believe that it is made of fiberglass than of some chitinous exoskeleton. Starmie wigs me the frig out. But in the words of jam band moe. in their epic song “Plane Crash”, “fear is a good thing, it teaches us humility / and it can keep us sane.” And if you bring the wrong team to Misty’s gym, boy howdy, will her Starmie teach you some humility. Thanks for keeping us down to earth with your frightening jewel eye, Starmie. B
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250px-122mr-_mime122. Mr. Mime
Type: Psychic / Fairy
Best Name: Señor Mime (Spanish)[1]
In Red/Blue, you can only get a Mr. Mime by trading in-game for one, and its nickname is Marcel. This is no doubt a reference to Marcel Marceau, but I prefer to think it’s a reference to the monkey from Friends, on account of the fact that I hate working with it so much that rumors have circulated that I am allergic to it.

Mr. Mime has a male honorific in its name, yet somehow 50% of all Mr. Mimes are female. Do these 50% make 75 Pokécents on the Pokédollar? How do they feel, traversing their conflicted existences, being almost unanimously erroneously perceived as male? Mr. Mime may pretend to be trapped in an invisible box, but the glass ceiling is all too real. Truly, in the Kanto region as in real life, it’s a man’s world. Deplorable. D-
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250px-123scyther123. Scyther
Type: Bug / Flying
Best Name: Srak (Korean)
Scyther may stand on two legs, and it may have scary sickle-like appendages, and it may have big wings, and it may be nearly five feet tall, but at the end of the day, it’s a Bug Pokémon, and Bug Catchers are still the worst type of trainer, and all I have to do is torch it with a Flamethrower attack—or, since it’s also Flying type, bring out the bug zapper (a.k.a. Pikachu)—to send this big bug into the fetal position. C+
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250px-124jynx124. Jynx
Type: Ice / Psychic
Best Name: Rossana (German)
Oh, honey. We cannot go anywhere without first talking about that shameful cover-up job. Don’t pretend like you don’t know what I’m talking about. Your face, of course. Nobody fell for it when they changed Mr. Popo to blue and no one’s falling for your purple getup. Though in fairness, you can’t help it that you were created in a country that portrayed blackness as sensitively in the 1990s as America did in the 1890s. Also, Ice/Psychic is a pretty sweet type combo, especially in Gen I. Only Pokémon to walk into a salon, request “the Rachel”, and have the hairdresser get it 100% right. B-
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250px-125electabuzz125. Electabuzz
Type: Electric
Best Name: Elektek (German)
Consigned to living in Pikachu’s shadow, could never be as cool or cute as Pikachu even if it wanted to be. Shows up far too late in most games to have any real enduring impact. Has attended at least three music festivals based solely on the appearance in the lineup of a band whose music you have never heard and would hate if you did. Probably sheds like crazy. Three-quarters of Electabuzzes are male, which feels exactly right. Does not understand why it is not cool to admit that you still own a pair of Hammer pants. C+
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250px-126magmar126. Magmar
Type: Fire
Best Name: Boober (Japanese)
Not at all sure what’s going on here. The only thing I can think of is if Howard the Duck drank too much revitalizing nerve tonic and took up bondage play and customizing hot rods. Excretes solid waste from its forehead in my headcanon. The details are very foggy, and I don’t know how canonical it is or when it started, but Magmar and Electabuzz have been implied to have this kind of bizarre odd-couple friendship based solely, as far as I can tell, on the fact that they are next to each other in the Pokédex. I suppose lifelong bonds have been forged from less. I don’t understand anything about this Pokémon or this brolationship and frankly, I refuse. Gen VI Pokédex entry says it’s found “near the mouth of a volcano”, which if applicable to Pokémon GO would add more great (if largely apocryphal) stories of Darwinian stupidity to the already substantial pile. C
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250px-127pinsir127. Pinsir
Type: Bug
Best Name: Scarabrute (French)
Among Pokémon I’ve seen and heard people excited to catch in Pokémon GO, Pinsir has come up quite often, which surprises me, since most normal people would freak out if they encountered Pinsir in the wild the way Misty did when she saw a Caterpie. I personally wouldn’t worry, however, as its bark has long been known to be worse than its bite. If you think regular Pinsir looks scary, Mega Pinsir looks downright possessed, and grew wings, which it probably needs because the evolution process inexplicably decided to leave it without functional feet. B-
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250px-128tauros128. Tauros
Type: Normal
Best Name: English
Tauros is among the more resolutely normal-looking Pokémon, except for the three tails. I thought they were weird, so I looked into it, and it turns out he BEATS HIMSELF WITH THEM to whip himself into a frenzy for battle! Tauros! Buddy! Self-flagellation is not the answer! Chug a Red Bull, dump a bucket of ice over your head, or something, but seek help. I would be inclined to rate it higher if it wasn’t Normal type, but I don’t know what type it would qualify for otherwise, except maaaaaybe Ground. B-
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250px-129magikarp129. Magikarp
Type: Water
Best Name: Ingeoking (Korean)
Despite the fact that we are told as children never to judge a book by its cover, we go on to spend our adult lives constantly being judged by covers—besides résumés and interviews, and the perception of our work performance is often far more important to our immediate supervisors than the truth of it. Magikarp is pretty much the only reason I can come up with  that phrase is not complete and utter bunk.

The legend behind the Magikarp line, originating from China, is that carp that leapt over the waterfall known as the Dragon Gate, they would turn into dragons themselves. It’s an allegory for tenacity and perseverance. If you face the Gate and keep leaping, then one day you’ll leap high enough, and then you too can emerge from your hardships a mighty dragon.

It’s difficult to properly rate Magikarp. On its own merits, it’s completely awful. Its offensive options are extremely limited (when they exist at all), and all it does is flop around and make a fool of itself. On the other hand, it would be silly to kid ourselves after nearly two decades that we don’t know what it eventually evolves into, and it’s not proper to review things in a vacuum. The best way to go is likely to split the difference. C
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250px-130gyarados130. Gyarados
Type: Water / Flying
Best Name: English
Gyarados is one of the few Pokémon to achieve a rarefied Pikachu level of cool in that they were able to keep the Japanese name on it when they exported it because they knew nobody would ask questions and everybody would think it was awesome. And you know what? That’s exactly what happened. Except in France, where it’s called Léviator, which sounds like half of a Harry Potter incantation. Sorry, France.

One enduring source of bafflement surrounding Gyarados is the fact that it’s never had a Dragon typing, either as its main or subtype, and consider me as curious as anyone. If Gyarados doesn’t qualify as a Dragon, then what does? Mega Gyarados incredibly also fails to rectify this bizarre mislabeling (Dark? Really?? Ugh), and on top of that, looks bloated instead of intimidating. Still, not enough to bring this O.G. down. A
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Next time: Lapras to Kabuto


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[1] According to Bulbapedia, some Latin American dubs of the anime refer to him by this name. We will hereafter refer to these as “the superior Latin American dubs”.

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All Pokémon Graded, Part 12: Nos. 111 to 120 (Rhyhorn to Staryu)

After a seven-month hiatus, welcome back to All Pokémon Graded, the feature that seeks to empirically quantify the goodness (or badness) of your favorite Pokémon. Inspired by the massive success of Pokémon GO, I’ve decided to strike while the iron is hot and return to a format a handful of people really enjoyed. Also, with the imminent release of Pokémon Sun & Moon standing a good chance of boosting the total Pokémon count above 800, I’ve decided to drop the “720” and just call it “All Pokémon Graded”. Anyway, in this installment, it’s mother’s day.
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250px-111rhyhorn111. Rhyhorn
Type: Ground / Rock
Best Name: Sihorn (Japanese)
This Pokémon looks like its body is made entirely of bone fissures, which sounds incredibly painful. In XY, the protagonist’s mother is a famous Rhyhorn racer. This sounds unfathomably boring, mostly because they look like they have a top speed of “galumph”. I was going to pick on it some more, but I feel bad because I looked at its Pokédex entries and a lot of them make note of its small brain and how “inept” it is at turning. C+
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250px-112rhydon112. Rhydon
Type: Ground / Rock
Best Name: English
Bulbasaur may have the honor of being number 1 in the National Dex, but Rhydon is the #001 of Pokémon creation order. That’s right, Rhydon is the OG Pokémon, and deserves your respect thusly. Its shiny variation is a nice gentle creme color that I really like. Rhydon, like Onix, is another victim of the anime’s awful habit of breaking established type relationships to give Pikachu even more time in the limelight. Normally ground types are totally immune to electric attacks, but they gave its horn some baloney “lightning rod” quality so Pikachu could take Blaine’s Rhydon down easily. It was a pretty cool Pokémon to begin with, but it gets a heaping helping of bonus sympathy points for that rigmarole. A-
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250px-113chansey113. Chansey
Type: Normal
Best Name: Lucky (Japanese)
Chansey has always been kind of a paragon of motherhood in the Pokémon series, what with its marsupial-like egg pouch and constancy at the side of anime fixture Nurse Joy. Full-time maternity hasn’t stopped it from a healthy side career in trolling, however, as it’s notoriously the hardest to catch in the original game’s Safari Zone. Name sounds like a type of English accent. B
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250px-114tangela114. Tangela
Type: Grass
Best Name: Monjara (Japanese)
Tangela might look a hot mess, but it can see and it can walk without tripping over itself, so maybe we should just be happy for it and mind our beeswax. Induces a sudden strange craving for gummi worms. B-
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250px-115kangaskhan115. Kangaskhan
Type: Normal
Best Name: English
Another parent Pokémon; one wonders how Tangela managed to insinuate itself between them in Pokédexical order. Only Pokémon named after an extremely violent Mongolian warlord, which informs its temperament and surely must count for something. Highly noteworthy Mega form, in which the baby pops out of the pouch to fight alongside the parent. ULTRA-CUTE. B+
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250px-116horsea116. Horsea
Type: Water
Best Name: Hypotrempe (French)
One of those tiny Pokémon that one is amazed to learn doesn’t just spend its entire day getting its butt kicked. Japanese name is “Tattu”, which derives from a term for “seahorse” that translates to “illegitimate child of a dragon”. I don’t know about you, but I’m functionally twelve years old, so that little tidbit means I will be naming every Horsea I capture from here on out “Bastard”. No word on whether said name is also a nod to its side gig as part of a Russian lesbian synthpop duo. C+
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250px-117seadra117. Seadra
Type: Water
Best Name: English
Seadra is an utterly forgettable Pokémon. Who wants to hang on to a Horsea until level 32 just to get a plain old water Pokémon that’s been outclassed several times over by the time you finally encounter it. One thing I do like about it is its Red/Blue sprite, which has an aerodynamic quality that, in a weird way, evokes the difference between the rubbery Klasky-Csupo era of The Simpsons and its lifeless current design. I’m impressed that they managed to remember it fondly enough to give it a pretty cool evolution later on down the road, because I sure couldn’t have done that. D+
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250px-118goldeen118. Goldeen
Type: Water
Best Name: Konchi (Korean)
Magikarp may take a fair amount of flak for being a floppy useless trash heap (more on that in the next ten), but in my mind Goldeen takes that title, even with the horn on its head providing some reasonable off-type offense. What was more disappointing than opening a Pokéball in Super Smash Bros. Melee and watching a Goldeen flounder on the ground not damaging anything? Looks like it has the integrity of a wet Kleenex. It wigs me out when I see it in a battle and it’s just floating in midair like that creepy Ghost of Christmas Past in The Muppet Christmas Carol. C-
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250px-119seaking119. Seaking
Type: Water
Best Name: Azumao (Japanese)
I think the general internet populace might remember Seaking, to the extent that they remember it at all, from the meme “F— Yeah Seaking”. By meme standards, “F— Yeah Seaking” is improbably ancient, beginning on 4chan in April 2007, making it only slightly more relevant than Chuck Norris jokes. Notably, it was the first of many Tumblrs to use the “f___yeah[insert thing here]” subdomain, so that nets it a few internet history points. Assuming “Goldeen” is a combination of “gold” and “queen”, that implies that a king evolves from a queen and thus is the superior form of monarch, undoing all that wonderful stage-two equality established by Nidoking and Nidoqueen. F— YEAH UNFORTUNATE IMPLICATIONS, SEAKING. B-
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250px-120staryu120. Staryu
Type: Water
Best Name: Sterndu (German)
I’m not proud to admit this, but my primary remembrance of Staryu concerns its appearance on a trading card of prurient interest, that being “Misty’s Tears” from 2000’s Gym Challenge expansion. I vividly recall rumors swirling about the adolescent sphere of a card where Misty bared all, and I remember being gobsmacked that they actually turned out to be true. This is one of those cases, however, where Western puritanism actually produced a better work, as the close-up of Misty crying with a Squirtle wiping away her tears is much cuter and more emotionally effective. Aside from that, I have nothing to say about Staryu itself, other than I don’t appreciate it staring into my soul with its featureless, implacable gem eye. C
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Next time: Starmie to Gyarados

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RIP Alan Rickman

"A Little Chaos" - Offical Screening:  58th BFI London Film Festival

Alan Rickman, star of stage and screen, has died, like a certain other British icon this week, of cancer at age 69. I don’t really have anything to say about Bowie because regrettably I never got into his music, and to be totally honest, the first thing that came to my mind when he died was his cameo in Zoolander. So I am a Bowie heathen. But I watched Alan Rickman in plenty of films, and I can say something about that.

I suppose the Snape mention is inevitable. I never read the Harry Potter books, but I’ve seen all the films at least once, so to me Alan Rickman is Snape and Snape is Alan Rickman. A lot of actors could have gotten swallowed by a role like that—possibly even come to resent it. But Rickman’s heart was fully in it, and he had both the versatility and force of personality to transcend even a character larger than life, as Professor Severus Snape was.

My first awareness of Rickman was in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, where he played the Sheriff of Nottingham. My brother used to have a habit of watching a movie immediately after getting home from school, and Prince of Thieves was part of a rotation of about three or four films that he watched more times than either of us could count. I would not call Prince of Thieves a good movie, but Rickman’s performance is outstanding. He doesn’t just chew scenery in it; he swallows it whole. It is nigh impossible to imagine any actor making a character more slimy and vile and impotent than Alan Rickman made Sheriff George of Nottingham.

His breakout role of course was in the original Die Hard, as German terrorist Hans Gruber, that rarest of villains: the one you desperately hoped would get his just desserts, but also desperately wanted more juicy screen time with. Sadly, Mr. Rickman won’t be joining us for the rest of his life.

Elsewhere, it pleases me to have witnessed a healthy amount of love for his role in the eternally underrated Galaxy Quest as the utterly miserable Alexander Dane, who embodies every bit the dark side of the aforementioned actor-swallowing an iconic role is capable of. The same year, 1999, also brought us Rickman in Kevin Smith’s Dogma, where he played the seraphim Metatron, the Voice of God, 1999 evidently being the year he decided to show us he could be funny in a non-intimidating context. He also provided the voice of Marvin the Paranoid Android in the 2005 film adaptation of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, one of the few elements of that movie that did justice to Douglas Adams’s novels.

I’m only hitting my personal highlights. I’ve also seen cursory nods to Sense & Sensibility, Love Actually, and the Tim Burton Sweeney Todd film. Whatever role Alan Rickman inhabited, he imbued it with his inimitable voice and personality. His is a talent that will be sorely missed.

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Crappy Food Critic Funeral: Johnny Carino’s Sicilian Fire Sticks

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With apologies to Shakespeare: I come to bury crappy food, not praise it.

Last night, the fam and I had dinner at Johnny Carino’s. As is often our wont, we decided to get an appetizer. I’m not sure when they updated their menu, because we don’t eat there but once in a blue moon, but I noticed a distinct lack of our favorite appetizer, the Sicilian Fire Sticks. Asking our waitress confirmed it: they are no more. We settled for the Italian Nachos, which are good, but have one glaring flaw, which is that they are not Sicilian Fire Sticks.

For those unfamiliar, the Sicilian Fire Stick is a crispy red tortilla wrapped around chicken and spicy Italian sausage as well as a host of sauces, cheeses, and chopped jalapenos and onions. They were traditionally served in orders of three in a distinctive paper cone, with dipping choices of ranch dressing (an appropriate pairing) and marinara sauce (frankly baffling to me; I never tried it). They didn’t set your mouth on fire, but they did have a zesty kick.

Those of us hoping to satisfy our Fire Stick cravings in future must now make do with a copycat recipe. Looks good enough to me—makes 24 sticks, which is eight times the amount of a typical order, and there’s always the potential for tinkering. I’ll try to give it a shot sometime, and report back if I do.

Good night, sweet Fire Stick. May a flight of angel-hair pasta sing thee to thy rest.

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The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, Ranked

the_bazaar_of_bad_dreamsKing’s latest collection of short fiction, The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, came out back in November, and I’ve finally pecked my way through the whole thing. The book contains twenty pieces, comprising mostly previously published work, a few brand new stories, and even a couple of poems. On the whole, I’d say it misses more than it hits, but I was entertained nevertheless. Since I’m becoming alarmingly comfortable with arranging my thoughts in list form, here’s a guide to the stories you can skip and the ones you absolutely can’t pass up.

20. “Obits”

Given the premise of the story, I was totally primed for “Stephen King does Death Note“. Unfortunately, the characters are unlikable, the reader never feels the satisfaction and thrill of the protagonist’s powers, and King is out of his element setting his story in an ersatz TMZ. For better or worse, the country and its cornpone characters and homespun aphorisms are his wheelhouse, and he works best in it.

19. “Tommy”

Eulogizing the 60s is not my idea of a good time.

18. “Morality”

Read it back when it was published in Esquire. Left me cold then. Nothing has changed.

17. “Blockade Billy”

I read this one a while before this book came out. I recalled being disappointed with the story, but couldn’t remember why. When I reread it, I remembered. It’s not fair to expect King to stick to this or that style or genre, but I truly do think a supernatural element could have made this a more interesting story. The narrative voice in this one irritates me.

16. “The Bone Church”

This is a valiant effort, and I didn’t hate it, but honestly, I don’t pick up a Stephen King book to read poetry. (Unless it’s a book of Stephen King poetry. Which as of yet does not exist.)

15. “The Dune”

This story is trying way too hard. Guessable ending.

14. “Herman Wouk Is Still Alive”

One thing the reader notices throughout Bazaar of Bad Dreams is that many of the protagonists are older, if not elderly. Perhaps not surprising, given that King himself is knocking boots with 70 himself.

13. “A Death”

Well outside of King’s usual style, but well executed. One of those tales that bats your mind back and forth like a ball of yarn. The “howhedunnit” is nifty.

12. “Mile 81”

The first story of the book, and one of the most interminable. The demonic car is of course well-trod ground within King’s oeuvre, but different enough to justify the exploration. Despite how long it is, the premise is too pat for a short story but doesn’t feel like it could support a whole novel. Naming each “chapter” after the car’s victim(s) therein is a cool device. “Normie Thierrault” is a first-ballot inductee to the Ray Garrity Memorial Hall of Names Stephen King Gives Teenagers That Make Them Sound Ninety Years Old.

11. “Mister Yummy”

A decent one, about what you see right before you die.

10. “Premium Harmony”

One of the few cases where the intro blurb works in the story’s favor. Since King admits up front that he’s aping Raymond Carver, it’s more forgivable than reading the story and thinking, “Hey, who does he think he is? Raymond Carver?”

9. “Afterlife”

I feel like I could do the desk jockey’s job in this story. Then again, forever is a long time.

8. “Under the Weather”

Guessed the ending, still enjoyed it.

7. “That Bus Is Another World”

I got a bit of an American Psycho vibe off of this one. I’ve always been intrigued by the windows into people’s lives described in this story, and would love to write something that explores that territory, but I’ve never come up with anything worth its salt.

6. “The Little Green God of Agony”

Woebetide the skeptic character in a King story. I could read a whole novel about Reverend Rideout. One of those stories that ends before it’s over, to great effect.

5. “Drunken Fireworks”

This story could work as a modest little indie film.

4. “Bad Little Kid”

Holy cow, I wanted to strangle that kid so bad. No story in the book toys with your feelings as effectively as this one. Excellent ending.

3. “Summer Thunder”

Relentlessly bleak. King’s decision to end the collection with this one was a good one, since he so often beefs the landing.

2. “Batman and Robin Have an Altercation”

Not a face-value Batman tale, nor what I was hoping against hope for (a Kingian take on one of my all-time favorite short stories, Donald Barthelme’s “The Joker’s Greatest Triumph”). What it is is a charming and exciting tale about an older gentleman and his father who has dementia, with lots of excellent flavor and an intense climax.

1. “Ur”

I’m not sure whether to use “despite” or “because” in explaining why this story works. The story was heavily revised for its inclusion here, and since I haven’t read its previous incarnation, I can only assume they improved on it. King claims he was reticent to write a story centered around a brand-name product, which strikes me as odd, since he hasn’t been afraid to halt the momentum of a story for a sales pitch elsewhere (e.g. Under the Dome, where he devoted a page and a paragraph, respectively, to Apple TV and LCD Soundsystem’s Sound of Silver). Although it’s more or less a naked shill for the then-new Kindle, there are a number of very chilling moments here, and he even manages a Dark Tower tie-in. If you read one story from Bazaar of Bad Dreams while idly browsing the bookstore, make it “Ur”.

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The Tick, S1E2: “The Tick vs. Chairface Chippendale”

(If you like, you can follow along by watching the episode below.)

The beauty of animation is that it can bring to life things that it would be impossible, or at least difficult, for reality or practical effects to explore. “The Tick vs. Chairface Chippendale” is one of the show’s earliest testaments to that mentality, and one of its finest.

Now that the Tick and Arthur are established, they can get down to the business of patrolling. But at the beginning of this episode, it’s they who fall on their faces while more skilled crime fighters carry the night. After spending the first episode hamstrung by relationship drama, we get our first look at the more commonly hyper-competent American Maid. She saves Tick and Arthur from getting too embarrassed by the Forehead, Boils, and Zipper Neck, but is upset that they intervened: she was trying to trail them to see where they were going. Arthur finds an invitation to a birthday party for Chairface Chippendale, and the three sneak in as caterers.

The birthday party is an excellent showcase for the art team to show off their knack for mutated henchmen and gangsters. Most of them fall pretty tidily into a “what if this guy’s ____ was ____” formula, but most of the visuals are at least mildly amusing. The show even takes time out to throw them a sympathy bone with Chippendale’s pre-crime-committing spiel, which is fairly impressive, given that excluding the opening theme and closing credits, this episode is only 17 minutes long, so it has to kind of keep things moving along if it wants to wrap up neatly. I’m not sure if the length is because it’s a syndication cut or because advertisers got 13 minutes of every half-hour on the Fox Kids block in those days, but if it’s the latter, then holy crap that’s a lot of commercials.

After getting waylaid the first time, the gang has more luck once the crime is actually in motion and everyone’s attention is focused on the laser. Arthur unscrews the flashlight powering the laser, Tick nearly gets his head crushed by a henchman with a wingnut for a head named Dean, and Chairface Chippendale throws in the towel with a funny reading of simply “Okay”.

Cheese & Pixels Rating: What's Gonna Be on the Next String Cheese Album? (out of 5)

It’s neat that Chippendale at least partially gets away with his mad plot, and even better that it remains a part of the series’s continuity. The pilot may have set up the basic heroes and some of their dynamics, but this episode right here is the real mission statement of The Tick.

Stray Observations: 

  • A quick moment of appreciation for Tony Jay, the voice of Chairface, who was a fixture of voiceover work in the 90s, often playing erudite villains—Chairface, of course, but also Megabyte in ReBoot, Monsieur D’Arque in Beauty and the Beast, Frollo in The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Wraith in the Mighty Ducks animated series—but also occasionally voicing good guys as well (Virgil on Mighty Max, the Chief in the Secret Squirrel segments of 2 Stupid Dogs). Jay died in 2006, but it’s safe to say, despite how roundly (and often rightly) mocked the phrase is, that 90s kids will always remember him.
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  • A lot of the show’s merchandise came from characters from this episode. So you got a lot of one-shot villains with few if any lines who had their own action figures and/or miniature figurines, like Dyna-Mole and Dean.
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  • Love Micky Dolenz’s maniacally giddy reading of “Didn’t expect a clip-on, did ya?”
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  • “These little crab things are great!”
    “You like them? They’re my own recipe.”
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  • “You can thank my dental hygienist for our untimely aliveness.”
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  • Dean can crush diamond, but not the Tick’s head. Maybe the Tick’s skull is made of azbantium?

First Appearances: Sewer Urchin; Chairface Chippendale; Professor Chrome Dome; various and sundry minor henchmen; vandalism of the moon.

Next Time: “The Tick vs. Dinosaur Neil”

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Undertale Mops the Floor with Its Competition, Wins GameFAQs’s “Best Game Ever” Contest, and Generates Record Quantities of Sodium Chloride

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You may or may not have heard of Undertale, an RPG created by a gentleman named Toby Fox in humble little GameMaker. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that it conquered GameFAQs’s “Best. Game. Ever” contest, and in the process produced enough salt from the site’s user base to turn every body of water on Earth into the Dead Sea five times over.

To wit: in each match in which it was a contestant, Undertale was carried to victory by a groundswell of support from outside visitors to the site—mostly from Reddit, Tumblr, and Twitter, but it also got non-negligible help from sources like Facebook, Steam, and 4chan. In most cases, the wins were decisive, with the final victory against The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time coming in at a margin of almost 20 percent. On its way to the top of the mountain, Undertale took down stone-cold classics like Fallout 3, Super Mario World, Super Mario 64, and Super Smash Bros. Melee—quite an accomplishment for a game that isn’t even a year old.

I stopped posting on GameFAQs forums almost a decade ago for the same reason one stops eating their boogers or sleeping with a night-light: because even in an age where the definition of “growing up” is more mutable than ever, you have to draw the line somewhere. The GameFAQs forums are lousy with obnoxious children and stodgy mouth-breathers with stagnant opinions that lack nuance. The site may be a nonpareil source of information for beating tricky games, but its forums have long held a less-than-great reputation for their fusty interface and users more juvenile than those usually found on the Internet. So what better way to spend a night on the site than watching those tears flow like sweet summer rain? Heck, I even happily chipped in a few votes for Undertale myself.

(I should make one thing immediately clear: I haven’t played Undertale yet. Someone gifted it to me on Steam for my birthday, but I haven’t touched it. I have managed to avoid spoilers up to now. Hopefully this incident lights a fire under me to start it sooner rather than later.)

Here is a sampling of some of the juiciest morsels of schadenfreude, gleaned from the subject lines of threads on pertinent boards and a few refreshes thereof.

Who cares about the contest?

how the f did this happen (thread created by user Triforce133)

So now that the Undertale posse ruined the contest, let’s have one without it.

Well, at least all of the superior games are winning in the bonus matches.[1]

I’m not going to buy Undertale as a result of the contest.

Ocarina wins again!

Now that OOT won GOAT, what’s the next contest?

And my favorite:

Is God dead? (text of thread creator’s post: “How else could this happen?”)

There are so many sumptuous flavors of anguish in the excerpts above: feigned indifference, total bafflement, revisionist history, taking one’s toys and playing elsewhere, comfort in the superiority of one’s tastes, impotent boycott, baldfaced denial, existential crisis. I could gorge myself on any of them.

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Allen Tyner (aka Sailor Bacon or SBAllen), head administrator of GameFAQs, made a sticky post on the contest board explaining how there was no grand conspiracy behind Undertale‘s victory, which is the definition of casting pearls before swine if I ever heard it. While a generous gesture, it seems almost mind-bogglingly naive of Tyner, who has run GameFAQs for eight years, to believe that such a long-winded explanation will assuage anyone’s feelings, or that anyone will give a crap about it. What a colossal waste of time and keystrokes.

Some have compared Undertale‘s upset to the infamous 2007 rout by the L-block from Tetris in that summer’s Character Battle, but it would be generous to call that analogy flawed. Certainly, L-Block’s victory was the result of something much bigger than any individual user. But it’s a bit of a reach to call the L-block a “character”. Undertale, on the other hand, is a legitimate game that appears to have inspired a substantial amount of passion and emotion in those that have played and enjoyed it. One would think the surge in popularity of a brash newcomer would drive people to see what qualities it might possess that cause large quantities of people to sing even greater hosannas unto it than to established classics like Final Fantasy VII and Pokémon Blue. But that would require GameFAQs users to approach change with level heads and measured responses, which, ell em ay oh.

GameFAQs users, remember this day in the event that Donald Trump gets voted president. Because if he does, it will be for the same reason Undertale beat all those games you say you love: because of the simple fact that you failed to rally the troops and get off your duffs and out-vote people who cared passionately about their pet cause.


[1] GameFAQs held a grudge match after the finals, for an assortment of games that either got close to winning it all or lost via a bad beat. This appears to have been planned, but the Undertale hubbub adds a delightfully bittersweet layer to the proceedings. (For what it’s worth, the most recently released game in the grudge match is Super Smash Bros. Melee, which is 14 years old.)

 

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